PORT ST. LUCIE — David Peterson embraces the expectations bestowed upon him as a former first-round draft pick.
“You are the first pick they chose in that draft and I wouldn’t really say ‘pressure,’ but ‘expectations’ and I have expectations of myself, pretty high ones,” the Mets left-hander said Wednesday. “So I think the expectations I have for myself will take care of expectations that other people have.”
Peterson, the 20th-overall selection in the 2017 draft from Oregon, could figure into the Mets’ rotation depth as soon as this season. His third appearance of this exhibition season is scheduled for Thursday against the Cardinals, in which he will likely pitch multiple innings.
In four innings spread over two appearances this spring, Peterson is pitching to a 2.25 ERA with four hits allowed.
Peterson endured a sluggish transition in his promotion to Double-A Binghamton last season, struggling through a first half that included a 6.88 ERA in his initial five starts. The Mets saw improvement from Peterson in the second half, when he pitched to a 3.88 ERA. The 6-foot-6 Peterson pitched in the Arizona Fall League and said he shed about 15 pounds, dropping him to 235. An uptick in velocity has followed this spring, with Peterson throwing his fastball in the 92-93 mph range.
“I don’t know if it directly correlates,” Peterson said. “My velocity is up and I’m lighter so it definitely could be a factor, but I feel better at this weight than I did at the end of last year.”
A talent evaluator who watched Peterson in Arizona was impressed with the pitcher’s progress since the start of last season.
“He knows what he is doing, he has got a feel for it,” the talent evaluator said. “We all want these [first-round] picks to zoom to the big leagues and it just doesn’t happen. I think Peterson is going to be a major league pitcher. Where he is going to fit in the rotation, I don’t know, but he is going to be an inning-eating guy.”
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha give the Mets six veteran starters, meaning with a healthy rotation the team won’t be in a hurry to promote Peterson.
In acquiring Stroman at last year’s trade deadline, the Mets surrendered Triple-A lefty Anthony Kay, leaving Peterson as the next in line for a shot among the organization’s starting pitching prospects.
“My goal is to be in the big leagues and there’s obviously a lot of guys fighting for starting spots and whenever my time comes that’s up to the front office,” Peterson said. “But I want to make the decision on them as hard as possible and show them if they go with somebody that is a veteran and something happens I’m there. Whenever my number gets called I want to be ready for that moment and I love the guys in this locker room that we can as younger guys look up to and pick their brains. We have got a lot of talent in this room so there is a lot to be learned.”